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A law that took effect July 1, 2011, allows Virginia (VA) motorcycle, moped and bike riders to run red lights in certain situations. Normally, clists are restricted to following the same rules of the road as drivers are but with this new bill, effective July 1, bike riders can ride threw red lights when safe.

Many traffic lights have a wire in the road that detects a vehicle’s presence by weight. When enough weight cross the wire, the light changes. But too frequently, two-wheel vehicles -including motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles – end up trapped at red lights because they aren’t heavy enough to trip the traffic signal to change to green until a car pulls up.

Under the new law, motorcycles, bikes and mopeds must come to a complete stop and wait 120 seconds or two cycles of the light. As long as there is no oncoming traffic, two-wheeled vehicles may proceed through the light. This new law makes some sense, but as a Virginia injury lawyer who has represented victims of bike-car wrecks, it makes me a little uneasy to allow bike riders to ride through a red light. It would not be surprising to see car-bike accidents increase because of this new law. I can see some bikers sitting in traffic at a red light and running it, by taking advantage of their size and this new law.

It’s good to see Virginia lawmakers fighting for the rights of bicyclists, especially after a passing distance safety initiative failed to advance out of a subcommittee this year. Still, bike riders have a long way to go before they’re completely safe on the road.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.


  1. Gravatar for Opus the Poet
    Opus the Poet

    Actually the issue is making the roads work for users of small vehicles. The sensors which work by electrical induction BTW are not sensitive enough to detect anything smaller than a sub-compact unless adjusted and tuned regularly, which costs $$ and becomes an ongoing maintenance cost rather than a capital cost. What this law does is remove the responsibility from cities to maintain their signals so that ALL traffic is detected when at a traffic control. Those vehicles that are most likely to not be detected are now allowed to treat all traffic signals like stop signs, which is good for roads that have breaks in the flow of traffic but sucks big time when the light won't change and there is no break in traffic.

    This was a money decision, not a safety or traffic flow or anything else but not spending the money to make the infrastructure work for everybody. Personally I'm ambivalent about it, it makes the existing infrastructure work a little better for me, but I would prefer the infrastructure work for me exactly the same as it works for everybody else. Also I hate the wait 2 minutes or 2 light cycles provision, I don't have a stop watch on my bike (well I do but it quits running when the bike stops rolling), and if I wait through 2 light cycles I'm wasting a lot more than 2 minutes. It should have read "We don't want to spend the $ to fix all the lights, so for the classes of vehicles mentioned in this bill traffic lights are now stop signs unless they happen to be green when the vehicle arrives at the intersection". That removes ambiguity about waiting 120 seconds or 2 light cycles and makes treatment of traffic controls by those vehicles uniform from one place to another.

  2. Gravatar for Jim

    Your title says "New Law Allows Virginia Bike Riders to Run Red Lights" yet the actual law says bikers still have to stop for 120 seconds. Stopping and "running" at red lights are two very different things.

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